Decatur takes historic vote against Confederate monument

Decatur takes historic vote against Confederate monument

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KEITH HADLEY/AJC staff
This obelisk was built in 1908, long before there was a Decatur Square built up around it. In fact, the courthouse next to it burned to the ground in 1916 and was replaced by the structure that we see today. In the 1970s, the construction of the Marta line further changed the surrounding landscape and in doing so, created the Decatur Square that we know today. The monument has often looked out of place as Decatur has become one of the more liberal environments in the state, and residents are currently petitioning for its removal.

In a historic — if symbolic — move, the city of Decatur commission voted unanimously in support of removing the Confederate monument downtown.

The Monday night resolution read, in part: “...the presence of the DeKalb County Confederate Memorial obelisk provides a presence within the community that hinders the ability to achieve inclusivity, equity and justice for all.”

The resolution counts as a rare, if not the first, formal nod against such a monument in metro Atlanta since violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, renewed calls for removing Confederate relics. Other cities, including Atlanta, are considering what to do with such vestiges of the Confederacy.

But Decatur doesn’t own the monument that stands beside the courthouse at Decatur Square — DeKalb County does — and can’t move it. Georgia law protects such Confederate memorials.

Decatur’s resolution, pushed by Commissioner Tony Powers, urges a change in the state law to let local jurisdictions make their own decisions on such memorials. The resolution also supports DeKalb County moving the monument to another spot “where it can be placed in context with the larger history of the times in which it was built.”

The monument was built in 1908 in the Jim Crow era. Since Charlottesville, many in Decatur have called for its removal, while some want it to stay or be relocated away from the town square.

The commission said much progress has been made toward an inclusive society since the Jim Crow era, but that removing the monument could help even more.

Hate Free Decatur, a group which has been rallying for the removal of the obelisk, praised the commission.

“Hate Free Decatur thanks Commissioner Powers and the Decatur City Commission for finally taking a public stance against this symbol of white supremacy,” the group said in a statement. 

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Channel 2's Darryn Moore reports from the scene

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